MELBOURNE: Pankaj and Radhika Oswal have launched a $1.5-billion (over Rs10,000 crore) lawsuit, one of the biggest in Australia’s legal history, against ANZ bank for allegedly undervaluing shares of their fertiliser company, Burrup Fertilisers, to recoup millions in debts.
The Oswal couple has alleged that Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and the receiver PPB undervalued their share of the company by $1.5 billion.
They argue that their stake in Burrup was sold to cover a $800-million loan from ANZ instead of for the $2.5 billion they say it was worth.
Tony Bannon from Oswal’s defence team told the Supreme Court of Victoria that the couple was entitled to a judgement against the bank and receivers in excess of $1.5 billion.
Oswal is also suing ANZ for alleged bullying.
Bannon said the receivers and ANZ made it clear that their purpose was simply to clear Oswal’s debt, and effectively disclosed the reserve price to potential bidders.
“Not only was it a breach of selling any asset rule 101, as it turns out, it’s a breach of a duty of a receiver,” Bannon said, adding the receivers “effectively did ANZ’s bidding.”
The legal battle has already seen millions of dollars spent with over 25 barristers in court on Monday.
Openings in the trial are expected to last three weeks, with the trial itself expected to continue for six months.
Meanwhile, the couple is also accused of misappropriating $150 million from the fertiliser company for personal use.
The Oswals left Australia in December 2010, when receivers were appointed to Burrup, and only recently returned to be in Melbourne for the court case.
As owners of Burrup Fertilisers, Oswals became part of the Western Australia’s (WA’s) champagne set, building an enormous home on the banks of the Swan River in Peppermint Grove (WA’s most affluent suburb), nicknamed by locals as the Taj on Swan. The half-built home, estimated to cost $70 million, will be demolished soon.